Gai Waterhouse will join her father TJ Smith in the Sport Australia Hall of Fame, becoming the fifth racehorse trainer to be inducted.
Now a household name, Waterhouse fought a protracted battle to gain a licence after being denied by the then governing body, the Australian Jockey Club, because her husband was a warned off person at the time.
She won and her case prompted the Waterhouse Amendment to the Anti-Discrimination Act which prevents discrimination against women based on marital status.
She gained her licence in 1992 and on Thursday will be inducted to the Sport Hall of Fame in Melbourne.
The other trainers to have been honoured are Bart Cummings, Etienne de Mestre and Colin Hayes.
“It’s a lifetime dream come true,” Waterhouse said.
“It’s very special to be recognised at this stage, even though I’m still training. And it means so much more to be in the Hall of Fame with Dad. If he was looking down he’d be extremely pleased, and he’d probably say it was well overdue. He’d be very happy and probably have wished that he and Mum were here to see it. But I feel they will both still be there in spirit.”
Since Gifted Poet won at Hawkesbury on March 15, 1992, Waterhouse has trained more than 7000 winners including Fiorente in the 2013 Melbourne Cup.
She has won seven Sydney trainers’ premierships and a record-equalling, with her father, six Golden Slippers.
“Growing up Dad was the person I most wanted to emulate,” Waterhouse said.
“I just wanted to please him and try to make him proud of me as I’d taken on the sport that he’d dominated. He wasn’t just good at it, he perfected it!”
She describes Fiorente’s Cup win as life changing.
“It was one of my greatest moments,” Waterhouse said.
“No one realises until you’ve actually won the Melbourne Cup that it is life changing,” she said.
“It is the ultimate satisfaction and propels you to extraordinary prominence in the eyes of the average Australian. That doesn’t exist with any other race.”
Waterhouse is still hands-on and nowhere near ready to retire despite now having Adrian Bott as her training partner at Tulloch Lodge.
“My job is to make Adrian super successful. He’s my protege and I’m very thankful that he found the investors that wanted to take on the business two years ago which allows me the freedom to still do what I adore – training horses but without all the admin,” she said.
“At the Lodge I get huge satisfaction seeing the boys and girls who work with me, going ahead and doing well in racing and in life.
“Focusing on the youth is something that drives me. I want to inspire them to be the best they can be. I think it’s really important in this day and age where there are so many things that can distract people, but I know young people can do great things. If you can help by giving guidance and keep them happy and healthy, that’s important.”